LOWELL, Mass. — If the University of Maine baseball team is going to win the America East Baseball Championship for the second time in three years, it may have to do it the hard way.
However, the top-seeded Black Bears will first have to complete their second-round game.
Thursday’s winners’ bracket game against No. 2 Binghamton University was suspended at 11:40 p.m. after a 28-minute rain delay with the Bearcats leading the Black Bears 8-2
at LeLacheur Park.
The game will resume at noon Friday, weather permitting, with “home team” Binghamton batting in the bottom of the seventh leading by six runs.
UMaine coach Steve Trimper isn’t worried about how his team will respond when play resumed.
“They’re not going to sleep tonight because they’re going to think they can come back and win this game,” he said. “And you know what, you’ve got to think it and believe it before you can actually do it. There will be a lot of fight and a lot of kicking and screaming going down with this group.”
If UMaine (35-20) can’t come back in its final two at-bats, it would move to a 4 p.m. elimination contest against No. 4 Stony Brook (25-33). The Seawolves stayed alive with a 3-1 win over Albany in Thursday’s first game.
A win would put Binghamton (28-22) in the proverbial driver’s seat in the tournament and set it up for an 8 p.m. championship-round game on Friday.
UMaine isn’t ready to relinquish its claim to the league title.
“We’ve got a good enough team that’s got a lot of depth,” Trimper said. “If we don’t come back to win this game, we’ve got to try to win the next three.”
“They’re competitive son of a guns and they’re not happy with the way we came out in the first seven innings,” Trimper said. “I heard somebody get fired up and said, ‘this ain’t over, we’ve come way too far for this.’ I’ve got a lot of confidence in the guys. Don’t count these guys out.”
As evidence, Trimper pointed to the May 12 game at Binghamton in which UMaine scored eight runs in the 10th inning and won 13-7.
Jack Rogalla was in command for Binghamton after surrendering two quick runs in the top of the first inning. The junior right-hander retired nine in a row after giving up the runs and was able to keep UMaine batters off-balance with a slider and another slower breaking pitch.
Bears starter A.J. Bazdanes was not real sharp and found himself in constant trouble through the first four innings.
“We didn’t execute our pitches. It’s unfortunate,” Trimper said. “A.J.’s been pretty hot, he just didn’t go out there and have his curveball tonight and gave up a couple hits.”
UMaine was frustrated later in the game when freshman reliever Burk FitzPatrick appeared to get squeezed on a couple of key pitches in the seventh inning.
The Bears jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Troy Black chopped an infield single to the shortstop with one out, then trotted home when Mike Fransoso jacked a two-run home run over the fence in right field.
The Bearcats responded with single runs in the second and third innings.
In the second, Brian Ruby led off with a single to right, moved up on a groundout and scored in Bill Bereszniewicz’s infield single off the glove of diving second baseman Black.
Binghamton tied it in the third when David Schanz and Jake Thomas stroked back-to-back singles, then Daniel Nevares delivered the go-ahead run with a grounder to second base.
The Bearcats jumped in front by tallying three runs in the fourth inning against Bazdanes.
Nick Pancerella got things started after two were out with an infield single toward the middle of the diamond. Bazdanes walked Bereszniewicz, then Zach Blanden hammered a two-run double to the gap in left-center field.
The third run of the inning crossed the plate when Fransoso booted Schanz’s grounder to shortstop.